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The Great Gatsby

Geeks who love the Classics

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1Cecrow
May 16, 2013, 10:46am Top

I read this a few years back and just didn't get it, didn't appreciate it much. Since then I've read one critical glowing review after another, numerous references to it as a classic, and now there's the recent movie with Di Caprio. If I revisit this novel, can anyone give me pointers on how better to appreciate it on a second go?

2mstrust
May 16, 2013, 12:49pm Top

I also read The Great Gatsby a few years ago and had the opposite reaction to yours- I was so amazed by Fitzgerald's talent that, for me, it, and he, became became the pinnacle of American literature. Then I gushed about it to my mother, who told me she didn't think it was anything special.

You might get an edition that has information on what is being referred to in the book, such as the criminal aspect, to give a better picture of what was going on in the 20's. And if it's the Gatsby plot that doesn't do it for you, you might try one of his other novels, but the writing style will remain.I don't know of anything that will make you like something you just didn't like, but I think Fitzgerald is an author who ages well and what seems like a dull situation to someone at one point in their life is full of nuances a few years later.

3Bjace
May 16, 2013, 1:17pm Top

I read The great Gatsby in high school and wasn't impressed. I did a second go-around a few years ago and enjoyed it much more. I agree with mstrust, you might try something else by Fitzgerald. I'd try some of his short stories.

4dharmalita
May 17, 2013, 1:27pm Top

When I first read The Great Gatsby in high school I took it as a cautionary tale of what too much of something can do to a person. Gatsby has made his money in what is alluded to as illegal means, but all he really wants is Daisy. He believes the way to her heart is by throwing lavishly opulent parties to show off his wealth because he knows Daisy likes money and everything that goes with it.

The 1920's brought an end to the "American Dream," the fantasy of working hard, owning property, and having a family. Suddenly there is an excess of prosperity; an abundance of jobs with Wall St. heading towards the sky and some people becoming wealthy from selling illegal alcohol. Fitzgerald represents the era as the social and moral decay of society, which has become a cliché representation of the novel but nonetheless truthful.

Gatsby's single goal is to win Daisy back. This is symbolized when he reaches for the green light attached to her house from across the water; it's the unattainable desire to recreate his past romance with the materialistic Daisy.

Since you've read the book I don't feel like I'm spoiling the ending by mentioning Gatsby's abandonment by Daisy and eventual death after taking the blame for Daisy killing Myrtle. It's the sad spectacle that is Gatsby's funeral when Nick realizes the hollowness of the upper class. The only thing that keeps them going is the need for pleasure by way of material wealth and excessive celebrations of the lifestyle.

Fitzgerald's famous, oft quoted last lines, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past," is one of my favorite summations of a novel, ever! Gatsby spends the final few years of his life rowing towards the green light and Daisy, but the current keeps pushing him further back from his goal. The current is his past, Gatsby's idea (and possibly memory) of what Daisy should be—in love with him—rather than what she is, vain and in love with money.

Sorry for the long-winded response. I wrote an essay on Fitzgerald in college. This is the very short version, I promise. I hope it helps if you decide to re-read the novel because, let's face it, the themes are relevant in our society today.

5southernbooklady
May 17, 2013, 2:36pm Top

count me among the people who love Gatsby. I didn't appreciate when I read it in high school--I thought Daisy was a twit-- but when I re-read it as an adult, I was blown away. There is not a wasted word in the entire book. It has a literary precision that I normally associate with poetry. And it is the only novel I have ever read, ever, that I have wanted to call "perfect."

6Nickelini
May 17, 2013, 4:10pm Top

I read the novel many years ago when I was in my 20s and was very disappointed. I've always meant to reread it, but haven't found the time or interest yet. Yesterday I decided to read Tender is the Night, which I abandoned around the same time I read Gatsby.

When I'm reading popular literature that isn't impressing me as much as I expect it should, I go to Shmoop.com, a literature site written by grad students. Here's their link to Gatsby: http://www.shmoop.com/great-gatsby/

And here's why they say you should care:

The Great Gatsby is a delightful concoction of Real Housewives, a never-ending Academy Awards after-party, and HBO's Sopranos. Shake over ice, add a twist of jazz, a spritz of adultery, and a little pink umbrella … and you've got yourself a 5 o'clock beverage that, given the 1920s setting, you wouldn't be allowed to drink.

The one thing all these shows and Gatsby have in common is the notion of the American Dream. The Dream has seen its ups and downs. But from immigration (certainly not a modern concern, right?) to the Depression (we wouldn't know anything about that), the American Dream has always meant the same thing: it's all about the Benjamins, baby.

Yet Gatsby reminds us that the dollars aren't always enough. As we learned from Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, you can put on the dress, but you still aren't going to know which fork to use. Especially if you're bootlegging to make the money for the dress. Even when they have the cash, newly made millionaires are still knocking at the door for the accepted elite to let them in. If the concept of the nouveau riche (the newly rich) has gone by the wayside, the barriers to the upper echelon (education, background) certainly haven't.

So there you have it. There's more to the Gatsby cocktail than sex, lies, and organized crime. Although those are there, too, which, as far as reading the book goes, is kind of a motivation in itself.

7southernbooklady
May 18, 2013, 11:14am Top

>6 Nickelini: There's more to the Gatsby cocktail than sex, lies, and organized crime.

You can read Gatsby for what happens--as a kind of crime novel. You can also read it for who the book is about, like people who read novels to identify with the main characters. You can also read it for the setting, the illustration of an era. You can also read it for the literary style.

But Gatsby is a book where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts, and if you concentrate on any one filter, you miss a deeper sense of meaning that only comes into focus when you look at the novel as a whole.

8Cecrow
May 18, 2013, 5:45pm Top

Some great responses here - very helpful, thanks!

9Sandydog1
May 31, 2013, 3:15pm Top

10rfb
Jun 3, 2013, 7:10pm Top

Group: Geeks who love the Classics

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